Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Balancing Act

Today, I welcome author Karla Brandenburg to Terry's Place. She's one of my long-distance critique partners, and I thank her for stepping up to the plate rather last minute when my previously scheduled guest had to do some calendar juggling. Welcome, Karla.

For most writers, being an author is in addition to having another full-time job. What the heck, you say? Well most of us aren’t in it for the money, although I’m sure we all dream of becoming the next JK Rowling or Nora Roberts. We do it for the love of the craft. And yet, it’s a love/hate relationship. We can be so enamored of our latest story idea and plunge right into writing it, which is great fun, until you hit the point where you realize now you have to have a plot to go along with your great idea. And characters that will draw your readers into the story. And conflict, because real life does not always go according to plan. ot to mention crafting a sentence that is interesting to read (i.e., something more interesting than, “See Spot run. He ran away. Here he comes now.”).

The other really fun part about writing is that it’s a learning adventure each and every time I write a story. For my most recently completed work, I learned a new word – taphophile – and I discovered that there is a whole group of people in this world who belong to societies about the study of tombstones and graveyards. Sound morbid? It was fascinating!

I learned more about gravestones and cemeteries than I ever imagined, most notably, what certain symbols or engravings represent. It is my experience that authors are wired just a little differently. Learning new things sends the imagination off into a different direction of “what if.”

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On a road trip recently, I visited a cousin’s home for the first time and was captivated by the beautiful setting, in the country, on a hill, overlooking green farmland and meadows with the church steeple in the town barely peeking up over the trees in the distance; the definition of pastoral.

My husband’s first thoughts involved dollar signs, what it cost to live there, quickly followed by what it would be like to drive up that hill during the winter. Practical aspects. To me, it was peace and serenity and, noticing the way my cousin’s husband mowed the grass, crop circles in the middle of a rural Wisconsin town. There were mysteries hiding in the tall grasses and complex relationships struggling to be ironed out, all facilitated by this magnificent setting.

Writing isn’t something authors choose, it’s something that chooses them, giving rein to their imaginations and dragging someone else along with them who never thought of “it” that way (whatever “it” may be). Finding the balance between working the day time job, managing your household and still finding time to pursue a second career as an author is precarious, at best. There are days when life takes over and something has to give, but ultimately, for a true author, the writing is always there.

Billy Joel said, in an address to college students, that he knew from the start that music was his life. While he didn’t encourage other people to choose his road – he never graduated high school – he never considered another career. I think that’s true of any artist. Artistry of any type is a highly competitive arena, and even though it may not always be lucrative, but for the best authors, it isn’t about the money. It’s just who we are.

Karla Brandenburg is the author of The Treasure of St. Paul and Intimate Distance. She is currently working toward publication of her latest novel, Epitaph. Click here to buy Karla's books at Amazon.com
Click here for the e-book version of Intimate Distance
Click here for the e-book version of The Treasure of St. Paul


Watery Tart said...

The grave and headstone stuff sounds fascinating! I am also an 'elsewhere worker' driven to write because it's who I am, so I enjoyed the persepective. I'm just waiting for the day when I can support myself as a writer so I get to do what I love all day.

Anonymous said...

Yep - one day we'll have that break out novel!

Jennifer Ross said...

The excitement of learning a new thing, coupled with the need to share it with everyone, is what does it for me, too. Tactful people often tell me my writing reflects my enthusiasm! Not tactful people more usually tell me to shut up :)

I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in this. Great post!

Mary Ricksen said...

I worked in a job I hated for 30 yrs. Now I write. If only I had tried to write. Had taken the time for me, so that I knew where my heart should be.
I say write, write, if it is right for you. Never say die!!

Kathye Quick said...

My husband has a facination with reading tombstones. But he is really into family history.

BTW hate Billy Joel (not that it makes any difference).

Debra St. John said...

Hi Karla. That balancing act is tricky. I have a "real" job that I love. And I love writing. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

Sheila Deeth said...

My husband wishes I was just writing in spare time, but jobs are scarce and I keep dreaming. Trying to get a publisher or an agent, and trying to get a job seem to be almost the same thing.

Ray said...

I like your new word. I used to live near a pre Revolutionary cemetery. It was fun to look at the epitaphs, especially the ones for those lost at sea who were not actually buried there. It is said that if a drop of water lands on a person who enters the arched main gate at Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern, NC the person will be the next one to die. Although I don't believe the tale I always looked for dripping water and mader sure I walked through the gate before a drop could form.


Karla Brandenburg said...

I did cemetery walks while I was researching - some folks really have fun with their epitaphs :-)